Annie Besant was women’s rights and labour activist, a British intellectual and orator. Annie Besant left the Anglican Church, and became a secularist reformer, as an atheist and Fabian socialist. Her deepening interest in theosophy caused her to break with the Fabians and Marxists. This was before she joined the T.S. — “marching towards theosophy” around 1888. Helena P. Blavatsky had some good words about her before then:
“Another lady orator, of deservedly great fame, both for eloquence and learning – good Mrs. Annie Besant—without believing in controlling spirits, or, for that matter, in her own spirit, yet speaks and writes such sensible and wise things that we might almost say that one of her speeches or chapters contains more matter to benefit humanity, than would equip a modern trance-speaker for an entire oratorical career. There are, of course, great differences between these trance-speakers, and at least one—Mrs. Emma Hardinge-Britten, one of the founders of our Society—always speaks with power and to the point. But even in her case, is the trance-discourse above the capacity of her own large mind?.” (H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings: 1882-1883, Vol. 4, p. 124.)
Note, that she mentions Mrs. Emma Hardinge Britten, a name often forgotten, “one of the founders of our Society.” Emma Hardinge Britten became very adversarial towards the Theosophical Society’s direction towards Eastern Occultism. Annie Besant’s choices as a leader in a period of unfortunate schisms are disagreeable, but the story and life of Annie Besant inspired me toward theosophy some years ago, when I was an atheist. Annie Besant has done many other great things, and such is the problem with trying to slander the entire career of someone, where it is not truly warranted. Annie Besant was a radical intellectual of her day, a masterful orator and “diplomat” of religions we could say, who rejected the status quo. This demonstrates the eye Helena P. Blavatsky had for people, whom had this spirit she sought out for the theosophical movement; and even as Annie Besant was a widely out-spoken atheist and socialist.
Annie Besant’s Story
Helena P. Blavatsky, Trance-Speakers, H.P. Blavatsky, Collected Writings: 1882-1883, Vol. 4, p. 124.